We need to stop making a joke out of Australia's excessive drinking.
We need to stop making a joke out of Australia's excessive drinking. Nicholas Falconer

OPINION: Aussies have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol

AUSTRALIA, we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

You need only look at the way our culture treats heavy drinking like a laughing matter to understand what I mean.

I was scrolling through Facebook a few nights ago and I came across a meme that had been shared to a popular gossip magazine's page.

The meme, shared with three laughing emojis, read: "When it's ur turn to talk about ur weekend but u're not sure how to phrase that you nearly died from alcohol poisoning".

I read the comments on the post, expecting to see others who were concerned about this kind of attitude that strives to make excessive drinking normal.

Instead there were lots of people tagging others and laughing like drinking to the point of death was something to celebrate.

I know that I'm coming across as an old fuddy duddy.

Truthfully, I like a refreshing beverage as much as the next person.

But I don't like the cavalier attitude many Australians have towards excessive drinking.

It makes me laugh that some people who criticise people who do drugs think nothing of getting wasted and making a menace out of themselves on the weekends.

I'm not defending illicit drug users, but if you are using alcohol to excess, then sorry, you too are abusing a substance.

A point prevalence survey conducted at Australian and New Zealand hospitals in December 2013 determined that 13.8% of patients at Australian hospitals were presenting for alcohol-related reasons, while in New Zealand the figure was 17.9% of patients.

That is a lot of cases that would not be there, using valuable resources and taking time away from other sick people, if not for alcohol.

I wonder how many of those were causes of alcohol poisoning?

But by all means, treat bingeing on the weekend like it's a joke - pretend Australia doesn't have an issue.

The Foundation for Alcohol Reseach and Education this year reported that one in five parents with a child under 18 reported that their child had been harmed or put at risk due to someone's drinking.

According to the foundation, every day in Australia 15 people lose their lives and 430 people are hospitalised because of alcohol consumption.

Statistics show that 92% of Australians believe alcohol is linked to domestic and family violence.

Last year, the director of the Australian Human Rights Centre, Andrea Durbach, told the Universities Australia national conference that tackling Australia's drinking culture was one crucial aspect when it comes to eradicating sexual assault in all parts of society.

Years ago I interviewed a Urangan man, David Norman, who told me how he had gone from drinking alcohol regularly to quitting completely.

One of the things that stuck out most to me when I interviewed him was that David had felt he could not share his journey to sobriety with his friends because he felt they would make a big deal about it or pressure him to drink.

I took his words to heart and no when someone tells me they don't want to drink, whether for one night or forever, I make sure I respect their choice and never, ever pressure them to even have "just one".

We need to re-examine the way we view drinking in this country.

And we need to remember that binge drinking is not a joke.